Call to activism against assault

Friday, September 19, 2014

Alicia Nichols '05 delivered a call to activism at a Sept. 17 Women on Wednesday panel discussion on sexual assault.

Quoting a colleague, Nichols told the largely student audience in Atwood Theatre: "If you are waiting for a great activist -- it's you. It's in you and you have to do this work. You can't wait for someone else to do it. You have to do it."

Nichols, a restorative justice coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Corrections, was joined on stage by:

  • Tonya Faundeen Jones '97 '99, a Minneapolis emergency room physician's assistant
  • Barton Erickson '97, a school violence prevention coordinator for a Twin Cities non-profit
  • Eryn Warne '99, an assistant principal at Edison High School, Minneapolis
  • Lee LaDue '84 '91, coordinator of the Gender Violence Prevention Program at St. Cloud State

The panel discussion gathered at a time when high-profile reports are describing a pandemic of sexual assault in America, including on college campuses.

It's On Us

To RECOGNIZE that non-consensual sex is sexual assault.

To IDENTIFY situations in which sexual assault may occur.

To INTERVENE in situations where consent has not or cannot be given.

To CREATE an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

Take the pledge at

A 2005 U.S. Department of Justice study estimates one in five young women experiences rape during college. The 2014 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey results suggest that in the United States, on average, 20 people per minute are victims of physical violence by an intimate partner. Two White House reports this year -- the Not Alone report (PDF) and the 1is2many report (PDF) -- are demanding change from individuals and organizations.

President Barack Obama today announced a new campaign -- It's On Us -- to engage men in bystander intervention and other supportive behaviors. View the public-service video, featuring actors and entertainers such as Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington and Comm. Visit

"Because in a country where one in five women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted -- only 12 percent of which are reported -- this is a problem that should be important to every single one of us, and it's on every single one of us to do something to end the problem," reads the White House news release.

Faundeen Jones said about half of the assault survivors she sees in the emergency room know the attacker or are in an intimate relationship with the attacker. 

Erickson said America is poised to move past thousands of years of male behavior patterns, the so-called "code of masculinity."

"What I've always said about 'coaching boys to men' -- you better watch out what your definition of men is. If we want them to turn into men we better change our definition of masculinity first. And, then, we'll coach our boys into men."

Warne, who taught literature and communication for a decade before becoming an administrator, said: "Kids need help finding the words to be able talk about these hard things," said Warne.

"I remember something Lee (LaDue) taught me once, that stuck with me: Consent is not just the absence of a no, but it's the presence of a yes," Warne said.  

Panelists at "Zero to 40: Fighting Rape on Campus" acknowledged change won't come easy at St. Cloud State, in Minnesota and across the nation. 

"Nobody likes to get pushed in a corner," Erickson said. "The question is how do we engage in a conversation to make change . . . Make sure you don't give in to anything, but also how do you invite the conversation and use some of your values in that conversation?"  

LaDue, who moderated the panel, addressed students near the close of the discussion: "So, know that the things you do on this campus make an impact. It's like throwing that stone in the pond. There are ripple effects and you never even know the impact of what you've done."

Said LaDue: "I encourage you all to do what these people did. Get involved in something that you're passionate about."

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